Sunburn Nose, Suburb Ride

Why would I have sunburn in the middle of the bleak and cold winter?

If you recall, yesterday was a beautiful sunny day, with a clear blue sky. M and I went with Matt and Loren on a long bike ride out to the suburbs to Loren's parents' house. We rode from Bloomfield to Natrona Heights and back - about 40 miles. The temperatures were brisk - 19 degrees when we left. I had to wrap my feet in plastic bags to keep them from freezing in the wind. Does anyone know if the Highland Park bridge is in the City of Pittsburgh? I plan to call 311 today to report that the sidewalk is treacherous and to find out what it would take to get the city to salt some of these public walkways.


Duquesne Incline

Thom sent us so photos from when he and Madeline were in town. I think this really captures the feeling of Pittsburgh.

A Trip to the Health Department

Yellow Fever is a nasty viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes that can cause acute kidney failure and death. There is no cure - you just get sick and either die or get better. Luckily, Walter Reed developed a vaccine for it, as this disease has a history of wiping out large segments of occupying armies in Africa and South America.

Yet another wonderful thing about Pittsburgh is that we are not at risk for a Yellow Fever pandemic. Too cold.

But if you are traveling to certain equatorial regions of the world, you have to go get vaccinated. You even have to carry proof that you've been vaccinated.

By the way, M and I are going to Uganda this summer. More to follow on that.

Getting the vaccine is a big deal. Because it's a live vaccine, it's very dangerous, so they only administer it in certain locations. One such place is the Allegheny County Health Department. They just redesigned their website and it looks pretty snazzy. They have to mix up the vaccine right before they administer it and it's only good for an hour, so you have to go at very specific times, like Wednesdays from 6-7. The first time we went, there were about a hundred people waiting in line, but this week it was snowing and the clinic was nearly empty.

Before they stick the needle into your arm, you are warned about the possible complications from receiving this vaccine. Like, your throat might swell up and you die. Hmmm. After I got it, I was definitely paranoid all night wondering if I was, in fact, still breathing normally. My throat felt scratchy and I had a fever. That turns out to be the normal, non-life-threatening, reactions, though. In ten days, I will be immune from Yellow Fever!


Snow Day?

I would not be ungrateful.

It's been a rough week for this teacher. I even had a pencil box thrown at my head, among other unpleasant and somewhat violent acts. The good news is that the kids are doin' some learnin'...measureable increases in their reading skills in the past month, despite all their efforts to thwart my teaching.

Beautiful, gentle, steady snow is falling on the city. We spent the evening at Matt and Sloan's with half the crew downstairs playing Wii and Rita and myself knitting away upstairs. Coming home rather late, we drove on streets that were empty and covered with powdery snow. The sky was a soothing pale orange color, and the snow muffled all the regular city noises. It's hard to hate winter when it's so pretty.


Mountains and Valleys

Six months ago I was sweating my way up and down 4,000 foot mountains. I cannot say that "Yay! This is fun!" was something going through my head all the time. But it could be so darn rewarding. I went to a lovely dinner the other night for my friend Loren, who is getting married in a few months and was chatting with her aunt about the experience. She asked me what my favorite parts were and it got me to thinking.

I loved taking deep, satisfying breaths of fresh mountain air.

I loved sleeping soundly for as long as I needed to (once I stopped worrying about every little gnawing sound or mouse running next to my head).

I loved eating food that felt like it was literally fueling my body. I could feel it flow into my muscles and propel me up steep switchbacks.

I loved waking up to a to-do list that included only "1. Walk to Maine."

I loved walking by myself in the woods, enjoying the solitude, alone with my daydreams (until some large creature crashing through the brush nearby would send me scurrying down the trail in seach of M).

I loved having limited access to telephones, email and news. It made my conversations with friends and family all the more valuable...I really thought about what I was going to say during our next conversation. I loved not hearing about a suicide bombing every single day.

I loved being with my M all day and all night, walking, literally, the same path.


Downsides of City Living

The evils of Pittsburgh winter weather and street parking collided this morning when I attempted to drive to work. Having parallel parked in a rather small spot that was filling with melting snow on Wednesday evening, I found my car, literally, frozen to the road on Thursday morning. Normal protocol for an apartment-dweller caught in this type of situation is to locate the hammer and a serving spoon and begin chipping and moving the ice. However, I was feeling flu-ish and cranky, and this was not an appealing course of action in the 10 degree weather. I promptly shut off the car and headed back inside, changed into my pajamas and called my principal.

All day I could hear the squeal of spinning tires as people attempted to move their cars. The temperature rose throughout the day, and the ice began to melt. Around five, I went outside to make another attempt to move the car. Luckily there was nobody parked behind me by that point and I was able to, with dramatic tire-spinning and squealing, back up enough to get out of the spot. I moved into what I hope is a more desirable spot, and we'll have another go at it tomorrow.

The only solution is to get rid of the car. M has been biking to work in the snow and he always arrives home with tales of adventure and fun. I am seriously considering getting a bus pass. Although it takes twice as long to get to work on the bus, I find it considerably less stressful. The bus never gets frozen to the road. And I can grade papers while on the bus, thus reducing work I do while actually at home.


Pittsburgh, the Movie starring Jeff Goldblum

Yesterday was M's birthday, and it being a weekday, and me not feeling all that well, we kept it fairly low-key and wandered down the street to rent a video. Well, we did a terrible job of picking out something to watch. We started off with Jeff Goldblum's Pittsburgh, and were left feeling slightly vexed by the end. I don't want Jeff Goldblum to be from Pittsburgh, or at least I don't want him to TELL anyone that this is his hometown. It ruins my stereotype of Iron City Men.

However, I have to admit that when I viewed this film, I thought it was completely made up. Now, having read more about it, and discovering that 90% of it was real, or at least a version of reality, I am slightly more intrigued. Especially since we got bored with this film and started watching YouTube videos. Goldblum is cheekily evasive in interviews about what was improvised, what was planned out in advanced, etc. And what is real anyway? I spend all day with six year olds...do you think they go home with the same version of reality imprinted on their little minds as I do? We are surrounded by 'reality tv', which is anything but.

Nonetheless, I think it sucks that Pittsburgh is considered by some to be a good place to parody. Go play with someone else's reality, Jeff Goldblum. I might just have to come to YOUR neighborhood and make a mockumentary about your lame life. So there.


Snow Day and Happy Birthday, M!

It's a parents' nightmare, but a teacher's dream....snow day! My school is a charter school that draws from many districts. Therefore, we have a policy of never having two-hour delays, because some districts have them, some do not, and it's hard to know who will show up on the bus at the regular time. So, while other districts have been coasting by on shortened days, we've been holding to our regular 7 hour school day (which is very long for kindergarten, by the way).

But today, I received a six a.m. phone call announcing that school is cancelled! I'm not sure why...it looks no more inclement outside than most days, but the snow is forecasted to fall throughout the day.

In addition, it is M's birthday today. Happy Birthday, M! He works at the University, which never, ever closes, so he won't be so lucky.


M and I traveled out to Zelienople tonight to speak to Boy Scout Troop 360 about our Appalachian Trail Thru-hike. We wowed them with tales of vicious snakes, terrible weather, and human strength. Actually, they were most interested in our pop can stove, because Scouts are teenage boys, and teenage boys love fire. Congratulations to everybody who earned badges and commendations and so forth, last night.


What Do You Love About It?

Mayor Luke has asked us to write Why I Love Pittsburgh for Valentine's Day. While googling to see if this contest was actually real, I came across this promotion of a new book. Reasons that Pittsburgh is great, according to this book, include the fact that 250 million people showed up to Super Bowl XL celebration parade ("1 fer de thumb!") and we are the eighteenth most educated city in the nation.

Describing my love for Pittsburgh in 50 words or less would be tough for me. Unlike M, who is unquestionably devoted, I have more of a love-hate relationship with the region. It's like a mother to me....I love her, but I have the urge to grow and start my own life. Black and gold make me feel nostalgic, but I look anemic and pasty in these colors. Of course I look anemic and pasty in everything these days, since I haven't been exposed to sunlight in two months.

So what can I say? Pittsburgh, it's where I'm from, and I can think of no other place where I would rather be from.


I Heart PGH

Love this blog, but I have to tell you a funny story.

As you may know, M is obsessed with Pittsburgh. He has a Pirates hat for every occasion, our apartment is literally covered with maps and prints of Pittsburgh, he loves pierogies and Iron City, and he can often be seen wearing a t-shirt that makes some reference to his beloved city.

A couple of years ago when we were in college (well, perhaps more than a couple of years ago), we headed down to "M Squared". I don't know if you remember this attempt to get Yinzers out of their neighborhood bars and into some type of community social scene, but they would close down Market Square, hire a couple of bands and sell beer on the street. Around this time, M had artfully crafted an I Heart PGH t-shirt out of that iron on paper that you could send through your inkjet printer. It looked kinda crappy, but in a really edgy, stylish way. It looked pretty much exactly like this. Everybody liked it through and urged him to get it professional screened on some stuff. "People will buy that," everybody said.

Anyway, we were down in Market Square, and M was wearing that shirt when some girl approached him and said, "Cool shirt, what does PGH stand for?" Completely deadpan.

But now I have to wonder, Natalia or Lindsay, were you that girl?

Check out my article in the Hampton Magazine

Of course, you will only be able to do this if you actually live in Hampton, and have the magazine delivered to you. But it is getting rave reviews from my parents and other people from my past. It is about, of course, our AT thru-hike. I promise I will start pitching articles that are NOT about the AT sometime in the near future. But it's so darn story-worthy!


Shoulda Gotta Flu Shot

I got hit hard with the flu, and I know exactly which 7 tearful, feverish faces gave it to me last week. Yes, my job is filled with risks. I can't take time off, since I am in the middle of my pretend student teaching practicum, and we can only miss two days or we don't pass. And I have already missed some due to necessary doctor's visits for things unrelated to my unplanned bout with influenza. Stay tuned for more interesting posts about an upcoming trip to Uganda, plans for Abe Lincoln's, err, I mean M's, birthday, and what YOU should eat for breakfast if you are in my neighborhood on a Sunday.